Merging Wheat-Free with Common Diets

How does eliminating wheat and grains affects other popular dietary choices? In some cases, the dual diets work well together. In other instances, adopting a particular diet is unnecessary if you're eating a wheat/grain-free diet.

At some point in time, most people jump on the next great dietary idea all in the name of weight loss and, to a lesser degree, good health. But are these dietary bandwagons healthy? The true test of a diet program's effectiveness is whether you can maintain the weight loss and improved health for years to come, not just for a few months.

Low-fat and low-cholesterol

The two main issues that are falsely associated with a diet high in cholesterol and fat are obesity and heart disease. Because people want to avoid gaining weight and having heart problems, they try to cut fat and cholesterol from their diet.

However, when dietary fat is decreased, by definition carbohydrates are increased. Naturally fatty foods — meat, for example — don't usually contain carbohydrates, and foods with natural carbohydrates — such as potatoes — don't contain fat. This leads to increased fat storage and heart disease.

Cutting out fat and cholesterol leads to a host of problems. First of all, ingesting cholesterol doesn't increase your blood cholesterol. Every cell in the body makes cholesterol. In fact, about 85 percent of all cholesterol is made by the body; only about 15 percent comes from food.

Second, the paradigm that cholesterol is at the root of heart disease is problematic. Statistics show that 25 percent of all heart attack victims have desirable levels of LDL-C (the “bad cholesterol”), so another mechanism is clearly at play here. And yet the thresholds for prescribing cholesterol drugs get lower and lower.

The resulting higher triglycerides from eating carbohydrates such as wheat and grains are taxied around the body by LDL particles; then the LDL becomes oxidized, creating free radicals leading to inflammation. This inflammation is the beginning of heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and other chronic illnesses. Higher cholesterol with no inflammation means no heart disease.

Therefore, this dietary restriction isn't compatible with a healthy, wheat- or grain-free diet.

Dairy-free diets

Many people have abandoned dairy products because of their lactose and casein content.

Lactase is the enzyme that breaks down the sugar lactose, which is found in milk. When your body doesn't have lactase, you're considered lactose intolerant; you can't metabolize this sugar, so it causes gastric distress.

Casein is a protein also present in milk. Some people react to it as an allergen, so they avoid all dairy products. Lactose intolerance and casein allergies frequently occur simultaneously in people, even though they're different conditions altogether.

One very important factor to consider when eliminating dairy from your diet is the difference between dairy-free and nondairy. A dairy-free product doesn't contain any milk and is therefore safe for those people with lactose and casein problems.

However, processed nondairy foods, such as salad dressings and nutrition bars, are allowed to contain casein and may therefore present problems for those who can't tolerate casein. Always read the label to make sure you're getting what you need.

Regardless of your need for choosing eliminating dairy, this dietary choice doesn't conflict with a wheat- or grain-free lifestyle.

Meatless diets

People who eliminate red meat from their diets often do so because they believe the meat's saturated fat and cholesterol content increase their chances of heart disease and cancer. However, in and of itself, red meat provides many fats and proteins essential for good health. How the meat affects your health is the result of the way the animals providing the meat are raised.

What the animal eats, you eat. Grain-fed meat creates an unhealthy ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids. Over time, this imbalance creates inflammation, which contributes to many diseases. Grass-fed meat, on the other hand, has a much lower (more reasonable) fatty-acid ratio.

So as long as you're purchasing grass-fed meat, you can (and should) continue to eat red meat on a wheat- or grain-free diet.

Lowfat, low-calorie diets

Some diets require you to significantly cut back the number of calories you consume every day. The average American needs between 2,000 and 2,600 calories, depending on gender, age, and activity level. Diets that require you to reduce the number of calories you consume often want you to cut 800 to 1,000 calories a day from your diet. Supposedly, the calorie deficit that's created pushes your body into fat-burning mode.

However, with a reduction of calories (including sugar and refined carbohydrates) comes a reduction in metabolism. A drop this significant brings your metabolism almost to a standstill, meaning your body is burning fewer calories at rest and is in a constant state of hunger.

At some point, your hunger will overcome your desire to further cut your calories, which is why severe calorie restriction for weight loss and health doesn't last long-term.

The biggest challenge with low-calorie diets is overcoming the incorrect belief that the key to good health and weight loss is restricting calorie and dietary fat intake. One of the first cuts in a low-calorie diet is fat because it has nine calories per gram compared to four calories per gram for carbohydrates and proteins.

But actually, your body needs fat because it's essential for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat also transports nutrients across cell membranes and supports cell growth. A diet high in fat “teaches” your body how to burn fat as its primary fuel source by creating ketones, a byproduct of fat metabolism. One notable ketone, beta-hydroxybutyrate, is known to be superior for brain health.

Diets that cut out fat and fat calories aren't conducive to a wheat- or grain-free lifestyle. The healthy fats in a wheat- or grain-free diet help keep you satiated; without them, your only option is to try to fill up on wheat and other carbs, which keeps the gnawing hunger at bay only in the short term.

On some reduced-calorie diets, after you hit your goal weight you're allowed to gradually reintroduce foods you'd stopped eating while you were trying to lose weight. However, this reintroduction strategy doesn't apply to the wheat, grains, and sugar you've cut from your diet. Eliminating wheat, grains, and added sugars is a permanent change.

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